On ride yesterday with my girlfriend. Who has become decent at riding around on her Soma 29er with a 100mm fork. She was trying out a 140mm front and rear suspension bike and I noticed that she was barely using the travel maybe 3 inches max rear and like 4 inches front......yes the suspension air pressure was set correctly. IMO and I think anyone who rides in stowe(or northern vermont) would agree a 5-6 inch travel bike is best all around bike for around here.
I asked her if the rear end felt too stiff? which she really could not know but she replied no its feel fine. turns out she has gotten so use to being bounced and kicked around on the hardtail that she was afraid to really let it roll though chunky stuff. It got better by the end but still was no where near the capability of the bike.
I also notice that in some places she was taking the smooth often slow line instead of the direct though the big chunk line that actually can be more efficient on a full suspension bike. On climbs she eventually started taking the more direct line and just letting the bike do the work.
Its all really curious when you hear ride a hardtail it will make you better. I could not disagree with that more after yesterday. Riding a hardtail forces people to slow down and pick smooth but not always fast lines. in lots of chunky places the more speed you can carry the easier it is to get though. The average person simply does not have the skills to micro un weight and finesse the rear end around around here its to chunky and make recoveries when it does not go right.
The difference between the average xc hardtail and modern 6 inch travel bike is so huge that for average person I see no point buying the hardtail assuming cost is not a factor. and even if it is factor. Still highly consider getting the full suspension when starting out.
Like what diane said "what I will not like if I get this(a full suspension bike) is there will be no more excuses...... "